February 23, 2015
Joshua Tree CA
Dear Beloveds of Ruth
There has been a large change in the weather. Heavy rain. Cold wind.
Ruth continues much as she has been for he last day, slowly working her mala and breathing. I am convinced that she is clearly conscious and aware. She is practicing!
I cannot find words for the inspiration that this gives me concerning the Dharma. We say that Dharma practice is intended to help us “live well and die well.” The former has been obvious to me for a long time. Now I have a better sense of how important it is to have a stable and aware mind at the time of death. During these last days Ruth has clearly relied upon her practice. She is rooted in her practice.
This reminds me of the weeks and months following her last hip surgery. In the middle of the night I would find her walking back and forth with her walker. Her purpose was to learn to walk again, but also to be aware of “Lifting, moving , placing”, developing concentration and mindfulness
Breathing is the focus here in the room. Breathing is life. This is no idle opinion or fantasy. When breathing stops life stops. No wonder the Buddha placed so much emphasis upon in-breathing and out-breathing. It is the first meditation object. It is the foundation of mindfulness practice.
From the Satipatthana Suttra: “Breathing in long,s/he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long,s/he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ She trains herself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily formations.’ She trains herself”
The whirr of the Oxygen compressor is punctuated by a rhythmic thump every fifteen seconds or so. I am experiencing a complete peace and ease here in this middle of the night cocoon with Ruth. There is nothing left unsaid. The channels of love are wide open. There is no sense of emergency, or tragedy or of there being anything to change or fix. Ruth is coming to the natural ending of a long and most amazing life. From post WW1 Prussia to master Dharma teacher passing away in her desert home while surrounded by loving and devoted students and as the focus of a world wide network of persons holding her lovingly in their hearts. Ruth’s is a life well lived.
Her small care team is a model of how to live cooperatively with one another. Each evening we have dinner together and have a check in. There has been much vulnerability and sweet caring. Of course, conflicts have arisen. This is a situation that can sometimes become stressful. In a most remarkable way we have addressed these issues of difference and found our way to mutual agreements and hearts that feel safe enough to open further.
There is clearly no way to predict how long Ruth will be with us. What is predictable is that we will remain here in close loving support to take are of her every need.
It is an honor and incomparable privilege to be here at Ruth’s bedside. I know that I am changing, growing evolving fast in this context. Just as the caterpillar cannot imagine what will emerge from the cocoon, so it is here. Something of great importance is happening. In the world’s sacred literature it is common to say that “the world shook”, or some other great event of nature occurred when the master died. While I am not a believer in the literal meaning of such phenomena it is clear that the world of those who love the passing master is often profoundly shaken. Clearly that is happening for many who are not here in this room. Ruth continues to leave her indelible mark upon our hearts and is helping us to awaken.
Ruth is sleeping again. She seems to be deeply at ease. She is still not receiving any medication other than the one to thin secretions.
With love and gratitude for all your support.